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Metaphysical poetry Unknown artist (Ehglish School). Portrait of John Donne, 1631. National Portrait Gallery, London.

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Presentation on theme: "Metaphysical poetry Unknown artist (Ehglish School). Portrait of John Donne, 1631. National Portrait Gallery, London."— Presentation transcript:

1 Metaphysical poetry Unknown artist (Ehglish School). Portrait of John Donne, National Portrait Gallery, London.

2 Metaphysical poets The term "metaphysical," is applied to English poets of the seventeenth century. It was used by Augustan poets John Dryden and Samuel Johnson to reprove those poets for their "unnaturalness." They include: John Donne, George Herbert, and Andrew Marvell

3 concerned with the fundamental problems of the nature of the universe and man’s function or place in life 1. Meaning of metaphysical Metaphysical poetry METAPHYSICAL

4 Then and now… The Metaphysicals were looked down upon and kicked out of the literary canon. Now Metaphysical poets constitute the highest achievement in English verse.

5 Reflected the intellectual and spiritual crisis of the 17 th century 2. Main characteristics John Donne, after a miniature by Isaac Oliver, Metaphysical poetry The poet was a man of “wit”, displaying his sensitivity, his knowledge and cleverness The leading poet was John Donne

6 A particular type of metaphor or simile called conceit 2. Main characteristics Metaphysical poetry If they be two, they are two so As stiff twin compasses are two, Thy soul the fixed foot, makes no show To move, but doth, if th’other do. (John Donne, A Valediction: Forbidding Mourning) The poet compares the souls of lovers to compasses

7 2. Main characteristics The conceit Illustrates and develops ideas in a detailed and over-complex way, often with an effect of shock or surprise Insists on the relationship between A (the tenor) and B (the vehicle) Metaphysical poetry

8 Unusual images taken from all fields of knowledge: history, geography, astronomy, alchemy, mathematics, etc. Look, and tomorrow late, tell me, Whether both the Indias of spice and mine Be where thou left’st them, or lie here with me. Ask for those kings whom thou saw’st yesterday, And thou shalt hear, All here in one bed lay. (John Donne, The Sun Rising) 2. Main characteristics Metaphysical poetry

9 Take me to you, imprison me, for I Except you enthral me, never shall be free, Nor ever chaste, except you ravish me. (J. Donne, Batter my heart) 2. Main characteristics Paradox: A statement which is apparently contradictory though in some sense true Metaphysical poetry

10 Dramatic quality Most poems begin in medias res Go and catch a falling star, Get with child a mandrake root, Tell me where all past years are, Or who cleft the Devil's foot, Teach me to hear mermaids singing, Or to keep off envy's stinging, And find What wind Serves to advance an honest mind. (John Donne, Song) 2. Main characteristics Metaphysical poetry

11 ‘The Sun Rising’, John Donne BUSY old fool, unruly Sun, Why dost thou thus, Through windows, and through curtains, call on us ? Must to thy motions lovers' seasons run ? Saucy pedantic wretch, go chide Late school-boys and sour prentices, Go tell court-huntsmen that the king will ride, Call country ants to harvest offices ; Love, all alike, no season knows nor clime, Nor hours, days, months, which are the rags of time.

12 ‘Love's Diet’ John Donne To what a cumbersome unwieldiness And burdenous corpulence my love had grown, But that I did, to make it less, And keep it in proportion, Give it a diet, made it feed upon That which love worst endures, discretion

13 ‘Virtue’ by George Herbert Sweet day, so cool, so calm, so bright, The bridall of the earth and skie: The dew shall weep thy fall to night; For thou must die.

14 ‘A Wreath’ by George Herbert A wreathed garland of deserved praise, Of praise deserved, unto thee I give, I give to thee, who knowest all my wayes, My crooked winding wayes, wherein I live, Wherein I die, not live : for life is straight, Straight as a line, and ever tends to thee, To thee, who art more farre above deceit, Then deceit seems above simplicitie. Give me simplicitie, that I may live, So live and like, that I may know thy wayes, Know them and practise them : then shall I give For this poore wreath, give thee a crown of praise.

15 Experimentation with form and content Strong/dramatic beginnings Religion and secular/personal poetry The form and the content are inseparable References to science and inventions Intellectuality Challenging the reader by intellectual wit


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